The Connecticut Whale kicked off the 2018-2019 season, the NWHL’s Season Four, on October 7th at home on the ice at Terry Conners Rink. And the first player introduced was our #5 Kim Tiberi, the rookie defender out of Norwich. Kim was joined in the starting line-Up by another rookie, winger #23 Nina Rodgers from BU. It is an honor to be given a starting nod in any game, and in your fist game as a rookie it is really special. It is one of the things Cetacean Nation asked Kim about while we were putting this interview together. She responded “A very special moment for sure, and one i'm sure lots of people didn't even recognize as being special.” Kim added “My favorite memories with the Whale this season have to be with the girls. There were countless memories made on and off the ice as a team. Our chemistry was unmatched by any of the teams in the league, in my opinion. I think my all time favorite memory from he year has to be our trip to and from Pittsburgh. It was awesome having a sold out "home" crowd and to be able to get a win there and celebrate with this group of girls was amazing.” There are not many times you have a great six hour bus ride, but the weekend in Pittsburgh certainly seems to have provided one.
Kim had an outstanding rookie season on the ice for the Pod, playing solid hockey in the defensive zone, including being credited with eight blocked shots in eleven games played. She also was assessed only two penalties on the season. Kim is a very mobile defender and showed some excellent stick skills, launching eight shots on goal and picking up her first NWHL point on November 25th with an assist on a goal by our #92 Katerina Mrazova. Cetacean Nation noted that the offensive skill of the Whale defenders was one of the aspects that made them such an exciting team to watch. Kim agreed, saying “I think as a whole, we realized that our defensemen were very skilled and able to score. Along with that, I would say that all of us were also very offensive-minded and like to have the puck on our stick. To me, I found it so much fun to watch Doyle and Brickner specifically in the offensive zone. The skill and brains those two possess is so underrated and goes unnoticed at times, I'm glad it has paid off for them (all-star games).”
If you recall from Kim’s initial article with us last summer, she honed her offensive skills at Norwich where she scored seventy-six points in her career with the Cadets. Kim was what we would term a true rookie, one of our Pod having moved to the Whale directly from the college ranks. Other first year teammates for example, Katerina Mrazova, Michelle Lowenhielm, Meeri Raisanen and Mariya Sorokina had previous pro an/or international careers despite their young age. So Cetacean Nation was curious about the adjustments Kim had to make this season in the NWHL. Kim told us “The biggest adjustments I had to make this season definitely had to do with the speed of the game. Coming from Division 3, everything in this league is significantly faster, as expected. The speed of the players, the speed of the puck and the speed of the plays made throughout the game, are all much quicker than I was used to back at Norwich.” In addition to getting used to the faster pace, she was also joining a new team, getting into a new mix of player skills and personalities. But in that regard, perhaps the fact that more than half of the team were first year players was a help. And some of those players knew each other.
Kim would eventually play this season with two former Norwich teammates on the Whale: Sarah Schwenzfier and Kaycie Anderson. Kim spoke about this adding “The chemistry we had on the Whale this year was incredible. Personally, I've never gotten to play with a group of girls so talented and skilled but at the same time so selfless. I don't think any one person took another teammate for granted and we all really respected one another, which definitely added to the chemistry and how well we got along throughout the season.” Kim also had a great season in her “other career”, as she served as an assistant coach with Suffolk University in Boston. One of the players Kim coached there was star forward Tess Adams, who Kim helped bring to the Whale after Suffolk’s season on ended. Cetacean Nation asked Kim about her coaching experience this year, and she told us “I had an exciting year coaching at the college-level this year. As a team, we had a very successful season for a first year program which, I think, will lead to a bright future. Growing up, I had many coaches, like most hockey players likely did. I would say my coaching style is a combination of all of those coaches I've played for, but mostly stem from my coach at Norwich and my dad”
And as this will be Kim’s first offseason as a professional, We asked if she had a specific training routine. She explained “I haven't set a specific routine for myself yet, but I think some of the most important pieces of the off season are treating your body right and not getting too comfortable in the off season. Off-season training is definitely something that evolves from year to year depending on how the year went. I want to specifically focus on fueling my body correctly, and getting stronger and quicker on and off the ice.” And speaking of evolving, we also asked Kim for her perspective as a player on what appears to be an evolution of women’s hockey this offseason. Kim gave us this heartfelt and insightful reply “I was very saddened and upset to hear the news that the CWHL folded. I have many friends who play in that league and to see that taken right out from under them and all the other women in that league stings for everyone (players, staff, fans, sponsors, etc.) With this being said, I think the NWHL is doing a great job so far trying to supply opportunities for as many women as they possibly can, within reason. It's more than us wanting to play - it's about the growth of women's and girl's hockey and playing for the future of the sport. Continuing to grow the game for the future is what is most important right now.” Maybe someone could say it as well, but I doubt anyone could have summed it up better.
Before we wrapped up with Kim, we asked for some rapid fire responses to these fun topics and she happily obliged:
Favorite Dunkin’ beverage - Iced Coffee with caramel swirll
Favorite road rink - Boston's Warrior Arena
Favorite post game meal - Chipotle
Red Sox or Yankees - Red Sox
Editors Note: Suffolk University sits less than three miles from Fenway Park, just in case any of our Fairfield County fans were curious :)
Cetacean Nation thanks Kim once again for her amazing contribution to the Whale and also to our website! This is Kim’s second interview with us, so if you haven’t read the first one, why not check it out while you’re here? You can find out a little more about her amazing career at Norwich University, Gilmour Academy, and her beginnings in hockey. Fins Up to our #5 Kim Tiberi!